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Struggling teams meet as Sharks visit Coyotes

by Deborah Francisco
SHARKS (33-24-9) AT COYOTES (33-25-10)

TV: CSN-California (HD); FS-Arizona+ (HD)

LAST 10: San Jose 2-6-2, Phoenix 5-4-1

Season Series: This is the fourth of six meetings between the Coyotes and Sharks this season. The Sharks won 6-3 in San Jose on opening night, but the Coyotes have won the next two, including a 5-3 victory in Phoenix on Feb. 4 in which Lauri Korpikoski scored twice.

Big Story: Two teams mired in slumps get together at Arena, with both trying to hang on to playoff berths in the West. Phoenix is still seventh with 76 points despite getting just one point in five games this month. The Sharks are eighth with 75 points despite going 1-2-2 in their last five.

Team Scope:

Sharks: The Sharks picked up one point on Thursday night in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Dallas Stars, but felt they should have had two. Joe Pavelski's late goal gave San Jose the lead, but Dallas tied it with 1:15 to play and won the tiebreaker.

"We just can't give up that last goal," Pavelski said. "There definitely was some good out there, but it's tough to accept when you don't get two points. We've got to find a way to win."

They'll have to try extra-hard in the second of four in a row on the road -- the Sharks are just 1-5-2 in their last eight away from home and 2-7-3 in their last 12 overall.

Phoenix : The good news for the Coyotes is that they finally have a point this month. The bad news is that they needed five games to get one -- and they should have had two. Phoenix spotted the injury-battered Minnesota Wild a 2-0 lead on Thursday, rallied to get even, but lost 3-2 in a shootout despite twice taking the lead in the tiebreaker.

"We're not the kind of team geared to come from behind," said goaltender Jason LaBarbera, who was beaten three times on five shots in the shootout. "We play better with a lead, and that's our identity. When you're chasing the game, it makes everything much more difficult on everybody."

Who's Hot : San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi is 1-2-2 in his last five starts despite allowing just nine goals in that span. … Coyotes forwards Ray Whitney and Shane Doan have three points in their last four games.

Injury Report: The Sharks are healthy except for forward Martin Havlat, who's working to recover from hamstring surgery. … Phoenix center Martin Hanzal left Thursday's game with an apparent wrist injury and is questionable. The Coyotes have also been without defensemen Rostislav Klesla (upper body) forward Kyle Chipchura (wrist), though coach Dave Tippett said Klesla may be ready to return.

Stat Pack : Both teams could help themselves if their power plays would start contributing. The Coyotes are 2 for 21 with the man advantage during their 0-4-1 streak, while the Sharks have failed to score on their last 10 power-play chances.

Puck Drop : Tippett is expected to go with Mike Smith in goal. Smith was lifted after allowing two quick goals in Columbus on Tuesday and watched LaBarbera play against the Wild. After going 11-0-0 in February, he's winless in March.

"He's got to jump back in," Tippett told the team's website after Friday's practice. "We were able to give him a few days rest here and (goalie coach Sean Burke) worked with him for a few days, so we expect him to jump in and play a strong game for us tomorrow night."

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